Colorado's furloughed casino employees now eligible for fast-track hire into marijuana industry

Monday 6th April 2020

At a time when unemployment insurance claims are skyrocketing, Colorado casino workers have a unique opportunity to go back to work in the state's marijuana industry.

Casinos employees with a valid license issued by the Colorado Limited Gaming Commission are eligible to be hired at cannabis dispensaries, cultivations and manufacturing facilities during the coronavirus pandemic without having to secure additional credentials, according to emergency rules adopted by the Marijuana Enforcement Division.

Prospective hires and cannabis businesses should alert the Marijuana Enforcement Division about their intents to work together by email prior to employment, said Shannon Gray, the agency's communications specialist.

The decision to allow casino employees to cross over into cannabis came after collaborative working groups discussed interim measures to keep the industry running smoothly, Gray said. Because casino employees undergo similar background checks to those who obtain occupational licenses in marijuana, they seemed like an apt fit.

"Discussions about this option were prompted by suggestions from members of both the marijuana industry and gaming industry, with a focus on ensuring the (Marijuana Enforcement) Division is considering all viable options for businesses to maintain continuity of operations that are consistent with social distancing requirements," Gray said.

Gov. Jared Polis closed all Colorado casinos by executive order on March 17 to mitigate the spread of the novel coronavirus, causing widespread furloughs throughout gambling towns Black Hawk, Central City and Cripple Creek. The state's gaming industry employed 8,956 people in 2018, according to the latest data available.

Though the recently adopted rule is temporary, it spells potentially good news for the cannabis industry, which remains open and active providing "critical" retail services.

"We want to make sure the a cannabis businesses continue to be healthy and keep our employees healthy, but we're going to have turnover," said Dean Heizer, executive director of LivWell Enlightened Health, which operates 17 dispensaries and two cultivation sites in Colorado. "We're going look at (casino workers) aggressively because we don't have to wait 30 days or 15 days to get them badged. They can come to work right away and start training."

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